The “perfumer strips” included in our training kits are made of a special paper allows the aroma to evolve over time, as would a spirit poured neat into a glass. Dip one in an aroma sample, wave it gently for 15 seconds so the alcohol evaporates, and then give it whiff.
The first impression of any spirit is the fast-evaporating volatile liquids that form the aromatic “top notes” of a drink. They’re light, fruity, and fleeting. They dissipate in minutes, leaving behind the subtle, nuanced “mid note” spicy and dense florals. Finally, what’s left is the “base notes” that are the most familiar face of the spirit you’re nosing. Vanilla for Bourbon; peat smoke for an Islay whisky; juniper for gin.
We carefully source our perfumery strips and advocate their use even though they can be kind of a pain. (At the end of training, there are usually hundreds around to dispose of.) But they’re an absolute necessity when it comes to really understanding aromas and how they fit together to make a fine drink.